December 10, 2004

Published December 10, 2004, issue of December 10, 2004.
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‘Chrismukkah’ Holiday Shamefully Plagiarizes

We are deeply concerned about the spiritual misrepresentation of a newly created “holiday” called Chrismukkah (“Meppy Chrismukkah!” December 3).

While we as Jews and Christians practice our particular traditions, we also want to see the spiritual integrity of both faiths fully protected. Hanukkah and Christmas celebrated during the same period should not be fused into some cultural combination that does not recognize the spiritual identity of our respective faiths. Historically Hanukkah recalls the battle for religious independence that would permit all groups to freely practice their separate traditions without compromise or coercion. Christmas marks a most sacred period announcing the birth of the Christian messiah, and the beginning of a sacred relationship between Jesus and the Christian people.

Copying the tradition of another faith and calling it by another name is a form of shameful plagiarism we cannot condone. Frankly, those who seek to synthesize our spiritual traditions might be well intended, but they are hurting both of us simultaneously.

We Jews and Christians respect one another, realizing that there is a time to be separate and a time to be together. We see each other as separate spiritual brothers and sisters who will work together to better the human family.

William Donohue

President and CEO

Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Rabbi Adam Mintz

President

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik

Executive Vice President

New York Board of Rabbis

New York, N.Y.

Iowa Slaughterhouse Violates Rabbinic Law

The manner of slaughtering of animals and, in general, the treatment of animals shown in the undercover footage taken at AgriProcessors involves flagrant violation of rabbinic law (“Animal-rights Activists Take Aim at Glatt Kosher Meat Plant,” December 3). I join my greatly respected colleague, Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, in declaring that such behavior desecrates Jewish teaching and values, and the meat of the animals abused in this way is rendered totally non-kosher as a result.

Rabbi David Rosen

Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland

Jerusalem, Israel

I write in response to the recently published article in the Forward uncovering severe animal abuse at AgriProcessors kosher slaughterhouse, a facility supervised by the Orthodox Union (“Animal-rights Activists Take Aim at Glatt Kosher Meat Plant, December 3”).

In the fall of 1999, the foremost expert in humane animal handling systems in the United States, Temple Grandin, and I met with the head of the O.U.’s Kashrut Division, Rabbi Menachem Genack. At that meeting, we informed Genack of the regularly occurring abuse and mistreatment of animals at kosher slaughterhouses under the O.U.’s supervision, such as the Iowa-based Agri- Processors plant.

His response to us was a denial of violations of the rabbinic law not to cause animals unnecessary pain. Additionally, he cautioned us against publicizing our findings.

I am curious as to why only in response to the recent public exposure of abuse at the AgriProcessors plant has the O.U. decided to become more vigilante in its concern for rabbinic law on slaughtering animals.

Rabbi Adam Frank

Jerusalem, Israel

Yiddish Scholar Valued At Vilnius University

It is rather extraordinary that a columnist who hides all these years behind the name “Philologos” has the chutzpah to write in his December 3 column that Yiddish professor “Dovid Katz, one has the impression, would rather spend his time conversing in Yiddish to the last Jew in a Belorussian shtetl than presiding over a seminar” (“The Case for Yiddish in Israel”). Coming on top of the gross misrepresentation of the overwhelmingly positive attitude toward Israel (if not toward its language policies) in Katz’s new book, “Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish,” this smacks of an added attempt to misrepresent the author, too.

We at Vilnius University feel fortunate that Katz has been a professor of Yiddish language, literature and culture here since 1999, after 18 years at Oxford and a stint at Yale. In addition to his regular (and beloved) seminars at the university, he founded the annual Vilnius summer program in Yiddish in 1998, and will lead an intensive Yiddish teacher-training course set to be launched in May 2005. Moreover, his renowned expeditions to record, preserve and teach the language and folklore of the last Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe is a major academic project that deserves the respect of genuine philologists, whatever their own views of Yiddish, Hebrew or other languages.

Sharunas Liekis

Professor, History Faculty

Vilnius University

Vilnius, Lithuania

Der Yiddish Vinkl Mocks School for Gays

The Harvey Milk School in New York was instituted as a safe place for youngsters who would otherwise be driven out of the schools altogether by the harassment, threats and violence to which they have been subjected on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Evidently this is amusing to Stanley Siegelman, whose poem mocking the school the Forward saw fit to share with us in the December 3 Der Yiddish-Vinkl column (“A School for Gays”).

What can we expect next, clever quatrains poking fun at shelters for battered women?

Harlan Messinger

Arlington, Va.

Education Key to Faith

What communal leader Shoshana Cardin really said in her November 26 opinion article is that we are not fluent in “faith-speak” because we are ignorant about our Judaism (“Learning To Become Fluent in ‘Faith-Speak’”). We are not aware of Judaism’s stand on the issues of the day because we are not knowledgeable about Judaism in general. The correct response to her concerns: education.

Jews who are ignorant of the teachings of their faith cannot be practicing Jews in any sense of the word. Surely they will not be able to offer a coherent stand on current events and issues from a Jewish perspective. Educate the young, educate the old — and then perhaps Jews will be able to think and talk like Jews.

Samuel Danziger

Greenpoint, N.Y.

Rights Group Doesn’t Advocate Israel Boycott

The December 3 article about Human Rights Watch’s call for Caterpillar to cease bulldozer sales to Israel is misleading in several respects (“Rights Group Targets Bulldozer Company”). The very first sentence suggests that Human Rights Watch is trying to “stop an American company from doing business with Israel,” which ignores our clearly stated purpose: to stop sales only as long as Israel continues to use Caterpillar bulldozers for unlawful home demolitions.

We do not advocate a general boycott. Our position toward Caterpillar is no different from that taken with countless corporations, from oil companies to landmine producers. We believe that all businesses have a duty to avoid the complicity of their products and operations in human rights abuses.

The Forward prominently reports the Israeli government’s claim that the demolition of homes in the West Bank and Gaza is legally justified. But the article fails to even mention Human Rights Watch’s recent report, “Razing Rafah,” which documents that 10% of the population of Rafah in southern Gaza — some 16,000 people — have been made homeless by illegal demolitions. Israel justifies the demolitions by its desire to close smugglers’ tunnels from Egypt and to protect the Israeli soldiers patrolling the border. Neither desire justifies the home demolitions because both, while legitimate military goals, can be accomplished without the large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes.

Israeli military patrols are already fully protected by a 26-foot-high metal wall along the border. The tunnels can be located and destroyed more safely and effectively from behind that wall as they cross the border, using technologies perfected in the Korean demilitarized zone and along the American-Mexican border, rather than by the dangerous and destructive incursions into Rafah. The Israeli army persists nonetheless.

The Forward also offers a tally of statements on the Human Rights Watch Web site about Palestinian and Israeli abuses. Rather than subscribe to such analysis, Human Rights Watch is committed to reporting on and condemning the most serious human rights abuses by all sides to armed conflicts.

Sarah Leah Whitson

Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division

Human Rights Watch

New York, N.Y.

Please address letters intended for publication to the editor of the Forward, 45 East 33rd Street, New York, NY 10016, and provide your name, address and telephone number. Letters may be wired via fax to (212) 447-6406 or via electronic mail to letters@forward.com (please include street address in e-mails). Shorter letters stand a better chance of being printed. Letters may be edited for space and style.






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